Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Vayeshev, פרשת וישב, What are You Looking For? (מַה-תְּבַקֵּשׁ)


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In the Scriptures there is the phrase “VeZot haTorah” (וְזאֹת הַתּוֹרָה) “This is the Torah” which is a reference to Moshe having set God’s Law before the people Israel, which came “directly from the mouth of God, through the hand of Moshe.” These words emerge from Devarim / Deuteronomy 4:44 (: ( מד וְזאֹת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר-שָֹם מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל and Bamidbar / Numbers 9:23 ( כג עַל-פִּי יְהוָֹה יַחֲנוּ וְעַל-פִּי יְהוָֹה יִסָּעוּ אֶת-מִשְׁמֶרֶת יְהוָֹה שָׁמָרוּ עַל-פִּי יְהוָֹה בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה: ), and are recited in the traditional Jewish synagogue service each time the Torah is raised to be returned to the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark). This statement emphasizes the significance of the Law of God for His people, that these words were written by the hand of Moshe at the mouth of God. The Talmud, and the Aggadah (Shemot Rabbah 47:1 on Shemot / Exodus 34:27) speak of how the Torah was revealed, some say progressively throughout the wilderness journey (see Rashi and Resh Lakish), others say that it was all revealed in its entirety on Sinai (see Nachmanides / Rambam, see his preface to his Torah commentary). Many of the Jewish Bible commentators, however, seem to describe a more progressive process, both with respect to the revelation of Torah and to the ultimate writing of the text of the Torah. The general consensus is however that Moses wrote all of the Torah, with the exception, perhaps, of the final eight verses as a result of his death. (see Talmud Bavli Menachot 30a). Due to the manner in which the Torah was transmitted (“the Word of God given by the hand of Moshe”), the rabbis believe every letter of the Hebrew bible was inspired by God Himself. As a result, even the most minor narratives in the Torah should be taken with great interest as instruction from the Lord above. While reading Parashat Vayetze, Joseph went looking for his brothers, we are told that he began his search at Shechem. The question is “Why was this incident in the Torah mentioned at all?” Does it really matter whether Joseph found his brothers in Shechem or Dothan or elsewhere? Why would a narrative as concise as the Masoretic Text take the time to recount Joseph’s false start in finding his brothers? This is the one aspect of Joseph’s life that I would like to discuss this week. “Why would Joseph believe his brothers would take their flock near Shechem?” and “What is the significance of narrative about Shechem and the man that met him in the field?” as we understand Shechem according to the rest of the Tanach? Note, Shechem is paralleled to sin in both the Torah and the Tanach. Was there sin in the heart of Joseph or his brothers? Was this why they drew near unto Shechem? Note also that if Joseph had not met the stranger he would have returned home, not been sold into slavery into Egypt, not become a ruler in Egypt, he would never have been able to provide salvation for all of Egypt or for his family during the famine in Israel, and his family would not have entered into four hundred years of slavery. It turns out this is a significant and pivotal point in the Torah narrative for the people of Israel. “Is sin required for the Lord to work in miraculous ways?” (i.e. in reference to Joseph looking towards Shechem and his brothers selling him into slavery, etc.) The point is, based upon the narrative in Parashat Vayeshev, the direction both Joseph and his brothers took in life led them towards Shechem, a place of immorality, idolatry, and sin. If Joseph and his brothers would have had a Torah-centric Judaism would they have been led astray into sin? Would Joseph have been found wandering about in the field in this way as we read he was? Let’s discuss this topic a little further.  To read more click here: BTT_Parashat Vayeshev 2016

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Dr. Duane D. Miller received his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Akron Ohio. He is currently a Chemical Engineering Researcher. Duane’s research expertise has focused upon functional materials development for the control, conversion, and release of process gases in Energy production technologies. His R&D interests include computational chemistry, developing novel technologies for converting biomass to fuels and studying their fundamental interactions during the chemical conversion process. His past experience includes sorbent development for pre- and post-combustion CO2 and SO2 capture, selective absorption of H2S from methane streams, O2 capture for oxy-fuel combustion, photocatalytic reduction of alcohols, NOx reduction catalysis, the development of oxygen carriers to combust fossil fuels (CH4 and coal) for the chemical looping combustion processes, and the extraction of rare earth elements using patent pending sorbents. His research expertise has focused on operando-characterization using Infrared, Raman, and UV-Vis spectroscopy to observe the nature of the catalytic active sites and reaction intermediates under realistic reaction conditions, allowing direct correlation of molecular/electronic structures with catalyst performance during Gas-Solid / Liquid-Solid Adsorption and Photocatalytic Processes with real time online analysis of reaction products using ICP-MS and mass spectrometry. His current work involves a multi-disciplinary approach to developing, understanding, and improving the catalytic gasification of coal and methane, high temperature chemical looping combustion, and the catalytic decomposition and gasification of biomass and coal using novel microwave reactor.​ He has been studying the Hebrew Scriptures and the Torah for 20+ years and sharing what he has learned. The studies developed for MATSATI.COM are freely to be used by everyone, to God be the Glory!